Ashleigh Smith + photo

Ashleigh Smith

Dec 21
2 min read
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Mistletoe leaves and white berries

Mistletoe is a parasitic/hemiparasitic plant of mostly timber and crop trees causing a decrease in reproductive growth. Some of its favorite hosts are apple, hawthorn, poplar, and conifer trees.

A parasitic plant is one which gets its nutrients from its host. A hemiparasitic variety contains some chlorophyll to make its own nutrients, while still requiring some from the host. The mistletoe used for holiday decor is most commonly a hemiparasitic variety.

Since it grows on trees you may be wondering how it got there in the first place. The berries will initially be eaten by birds which carry the seed through their digestive system. When they excrete over a tree the seed rests in the bark and germinates. The roots that develop will then pull nutrients from the tree.

Birds aren’t the only way to start a plant. You can plant the seeds yourself if you would like to grow your own holiday mistletoe.

How To Grow Your Own Mistletoe:

  • Keep in mind it can take months to germinate a mistletoe seed, plan accordingly
  • Remove a seed from the fresh berries and rinse the sticky coating off
  • Using regular potting soil and peat plant your seeds
  • ist regularly to keep the soil moist
  • Cover with a lid or cover and keep in a well lit area
  • When it has germinated push the seed into the host plants bark

The tradition of hanging mistletoe began in Europe where it was sometimes hung in churches and homes. The tradition of kissing under it didn’t start until later. The first recorded mentioning of kissing under the mistletoe was in the 1780’s and it was again included in an illustration of the first publications of ‘A Christmas Carol’.

Originally the tradition includes a couple kissing under the mistletoe after which they would remove a berry. When all of the berries were gone there would be no more kissing. Just don’t consume mistletoe berries as they are toxic to both animals and humans.

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